Facebook Finally Admits It's A Giant Media Company-Almost

"Facebook, grappling with its role as a primary source of news for many of its users - and a source of revenue and reach on which media organizations increasingly rely, is launching a new initiative to help journalism 'thrive".

A new Facebook journalism project aims to strengthen the giant social network's ties with the media by collaborating more closely on publishing tools and news products, helping the advertising-supported organizations find new readers and develop sustainable business models and training journalists to more effectively use the platform and Facebook users to be more discerning consumers of news.

Facebook's struggle with defining its place in the media world has played out publicly over the past several months, coming to a head just after the election when some raised questions about whether fake news articles passed around on the site could have influenced it. Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg dismissed that possibility as "extremely unlikely" in the days after the election.

The company also said it would work directly with journalists to teach them how to search its site to better distribute news and engage with readers.

One idea it's working on: Giving editors the ability to present "packages of stories" on the platform.

Also of note is Facebook's interest in supporting local news - an area of reporting that has suffered in an era of newsroom buyouts and financial troubles, and which has proven hard to financially support online. Now it's a suite of tools that Facebook is making available for journalists to use, and help them connect with their readers.

Ever since it first launched, Facebook has resisted being described as a media company.

"Many of our partners have placed a renewed emphasis on growing their subscription funnel, and we've already begun exploring ways we can support these efforts", Simo noted. There are also other routes to monetization, including "ad breaks in regular videos" (i.e., mid-roll video ads). "We don't write the news that people read on the platform, but at the same time also know that we do a lot more than just distribute news and we're an important part of the public discourse". For example, Vox Media successfully teamed with Facebook to create premium ads inside Instant Articles, she said. Noting that they wanted to "talk about it now so that we can get as much input from newsrooms and journalists as possible".

Simo said local news is another area of focus for the company. To that end, Facebook's new journalism project also seeks to increase news literacy and to better educate the public on how to spot hoaxes.


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